“Influence without authority”

October 6th, 2009

It’s a simple equation: Bring the right people together, get them talking, and you end up with tangible results. CHHS was invited to attend the Maryland Meta-Leadership Summit for Preparedness (hosted by the CDC Foundation) along with top officials from government, businesses, and non-profits across the state, and the goal was to learn how to maximize emergency preparedness by sharing resources across sectors, making them fit, and making them work. I represented CHHS along with Lori Romer Stone, Amy Major, Robin Clark, and Arianne Spaccarelli.

So what is meta-leadership? The presenters described it as “cross-cutting leadership that generates connectivity, complete with a shared government, corporate, and philanthropic mission.” In short, think outside the box and work together. And meta-leadership is more than CEOs talking to cabinet heads and coordinating with boards of directors; it’s about people who are able to “influence without authority.” To demonstrate this point, everyone at the summit scored their individual level of authority from 1-10, and their individual level of influence from 1-10. How’d I do? Well, I gave myself a four for authority and an eight for influence, and according to the presenters that’s par for the course. Most people have more influence than authority (in my case, twice as much) and the onus is on those people to be some of the most influential meta-leaders. It’s all about building your individual level of influence.

In the afternoon all the participants split up into the respective sectors (government, corporate, non-profit) to identify Gaps (“Our community lacks …”), Gives (“My agency is willing to provide to help close gap”), and Gets (“To be better prepared for an emergency, we need to be of assistance”). Once everyone re-congregated in the main meeting hall and prepared notes the results were quite interesting. For instance, one of the main Gaps identified by business participants was business’ lack of involvement in the overall emergency planning process (general planning, exercises, drills, etc.) of communities. The message from business to government and non-profits was “call us, include us, we’re here to help.”

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